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Spring Grove senior felt EMT National Registry was 'fairly natural'

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

A Spring Grove Area High School senior has attained Emergency Medical Technician National Registry certification — a rarity for someone so young.

William Hill, who volunteers as a junior firefighter for the Nashville Volunteer Fire Department in Jackson Township, underwent training with the goal of getting his Pennsylvania EMT certification. To earn National Registry certification, applicants must be 18 and take a five-part, scenario-based exam where test administers can ask multiple questions about a scenario, raising the difficulty with each correct answer.

Fire Chief Brad Dunham said Hill isn't the only person in his department to take the National Registry test. There were two other applicants who did the same a few years ago. Dunham said about 50% of test-takers pass the Pennsylvania portion of the exam to earn their certification, but the National Registry is harder and knocks out a lot of applicants. He said if the applicants are there for the right reason, then they should pass.

"He's a semi-brainiac," Dunham said about Hill, saying the teen didn't have too much problem getting through it.

William Hill poses with his National EMT certification he recently earned. He is a Spring Grove Area High School student and volunteers at the  Nashville Volunteer Fire Department. Meredith Willse photos

Dunham is proud of 18-year-old Hill, like the other members in his department, and commends the teen for taking the test while also taking honors classes in school. He added the National Registry doesn't give anyone a participation trophy for showing up. They do have to put the work in to get the certification.

Hill said the test was “fairly natural” to him. He did study a lot and is grateful he took the bulk of the class during the summer because if it had been during the school year, it would have meant double the studying.

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When asked how hard it is to pass the exam, he replied, "that depends who you ask."

According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, there are more than 300,000 EMTs registered with a national certification in Pennsylvania. The site also said 63% of test-takers passed on their first attempt in 2021. 

Hill got onto this path when he started volunteering about 2 1/2 years ago with the Nashville department, which is a mile down the road from the high school. The idea came around partly because his father, Randy, volunteers with the department to help fight wildland fires, which intrigued the younger Hill. 

The teen said there wasn’t a lot leading up to his decision to sign up. 

“Honestly, it was very spur of the moment,” he said about his decision.

“Just one day I kind of thought, 'You know what? It would probably be pretty cool,' so I reached out to the chief and the next day I was filling out the application,” he said. 

His role is limited as a junior firefighter. He said Dunham lets the junior firefighters participate as much as they are allowed, which Hill enjoyed. Junior firefighters were not allowed to work during school hours or from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and could not train with live fires. He was allowed to assist with exterior fires and other tasks. He could not fight wildland fires because the minimum certification age is 18, but he can start that training soon.

Spring Grove Area High School student William Hill, who recently earned his National EMT certification, poses for a photo in his school. Meredith Willse photo

Dunham said Hill will start training to become an interior firefighter this month because he just aged into the program.

"Will is a great asset to the department," Dunham said, calling Hill very upstanding, respectful, a hard worker and a "good kid."

Because of how much Hill enjoys his volunteer position, it was only natural for him to become an EMT to be able to help more people. Rather than just fighting fires, he can also help them in person. 

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Before volunteering, he had a plan to become a mechanical engineer, but he also didn't do a lot outside of school then. Hill has since learned he likes to help people in other ways. This led him to realize he might want to do something medical-oriented and maybe become a paramedic or flight paramedic.

“I don’t know what the future’s going to hold,” he said. 

That’s also why he chose to get a national certification rather than just a Pennsylvania-based one. He wanted to make sure he would have options if his college choice or career took him away from the state. Dunham said while not all states accept the National Registry certification, it will still help Hill get a certification for that state faster and easier.

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Now that he has the certification, he hopes to be hired by local fire departments. Hill said he is old enough by state laws, but noted that many individual fire departments have their own rules on hiring.

 Reach Meredith Willse at or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.